Note: This article originally appear in Smart Businessness Magazine
Addressing safety for contingent workers is an opportunity to address safety within an entire operation, says Tom Quail, Vice President of Risk Management and Corporate Counsel at Nesco Resource. While contingent workers are often less familiar with a work environment and its processes, their need for initial training in safety protocols and reinforcement of that training can improve safety for everyone in that operation.
“Companies have a responsibility for the training of their temporary workers,” Quail says. “But this obligation is also an opportunity to create a safer working environment overall.”
Smart Business spoke with Quail about the steps companies can take to create a safer place to work for contingent staffing employees.
What factors are creating an unsafe work environment for contingent staffing workers?
One example is when a company expands the worker’s responsibilities beyond what that person is comfortable doing. Since he or she does not view this company as a direct employer, the person may be less comfortable raising safety concerns or expressing unease about the task that needs to be done.
The company and contingent staffing provider need to understand each other’s roles in training employees for the jobs they are being asked to do. If the company needs to ask employees to do more, there should be a conversation with the provider to either conduct additional training or identify and train another person.
Think of it as a continuing safety dialogue: If a company and a contingent staffing provider are in constant communication about the tasks workers are performing, there is an opportunity to adjust training or personnel. That ongoing dialogue not only improves safety for temporary workers, it also can highlight safety issues for an entire organization. This dialogue extends to the workers themselves, who can flag unsafe procedures and behaviors and communicate back to resolve these issues. Again, this open dialogue creates a greater focus on safety for an entire operation.
What steps can be taken to encourage this kind of dialogue?
It’s important to initiate a dialogue right away with companies by outlining the details of what training workers will receive and what tasks they will be asked to perform. This outline really serves two purposes.
First, it allows you to identify areas that require additional training or safety equipment or even more details in order to address a red flag. Secondly, the outline helps in communicating to workers the type of work they’ll be performing. Communication between the employer, the staffing agency and workers is really the front line of safety.
How does this approach help when an accident occurs?
It allows an opportunity to walk through what would happen if an employee is injured so everybody knows their role and knows what needs to be done at that point. The employee needs to report it to the contingent staffing provider and work with the company to investigate what happened, as well as determine how it can be prevented in the future. No one wants to have an accident occur, but it’s important to have a clear procedure for that possibility.
What are the benefits of these procedures to companies that use contingent staffing?
Think of it as a pyramid. First and foremost, the aim of effective safety protocols is to prevent injuries in your workers. Workplace injuries can have a significant effect on workers and their families and you want to see everyone stay safe.
Further down the pyramid, consider the financial benefits for everyone involved. Fewer accidents means lower medical bills and claims fees, but it also means more consistency and productivity.
To put it simply, accidents are expensive for everyone involved. It’s best to have a sound outline of how to avoid them. There is also this level that is often hidden and that’s quality. Workers who are trained to always follow procedures and always do the right thing (as opposed the fast thing or the easy thing) will not only be safer, but produce higher quality in their work.